Wednesday, 25 August 2021: Public inquiry into handling of Covid pandemic in Scotland to begin by end of year, US troops will leave Afghanistan by deadline, Possible poison attack at German university

⊂ UNITED KINGDOM ⊃

Public inquiry into handling of Covid pandemic in Scotland to begin by end of year: The Scottish government has announced it will launch a public inquiry into the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic by the end of this year – months ahead of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s promise of an inquiry in the spring of 2022. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she believed it was appropriate to start the statutory inquiry as soon as possible and that Scotland’s lord advocate had begun discussions to appoint a judge.
independent.co.uk, theguardian.com

Unite union expected to elect first female leader: Sharon Graham looks set to become the first female leader of the Unite union, taking over from Len McCluskey. Graham’s team issued a statement on Tuesday saying they were certain of victory, on the basis of the preliminary results observed after about 10% of ballot papers were opened for sampling purposes. It would be a surprise defeat for Steve Turner, the candidate favoured by the union’s current general secretary, Len McCluskey.
bbc.com, theguardian.com

4,700 people Covid positive after superspreader music festival: A British music festival has been linked to almost 5,000 cases of COVID-19, becoming one of the biggest superspreader events in the world this year. The “Boardmasters” surf and music festival held in Newquay, England between the 11th and 15th of August has since resulted in 4,700 people testing positive for Covid, although some experts have estimated the true number of people testing positive linked to the event could be much higher. But local officials said they have no regrets letting the festival proceed due to the mental-health benefits it brought. Virologist Dr David Strain said music festivals were „something that is important for mental health of a younger generation who have missed out on so much“.
forbes.com, businessinsider.com, bbc.com

NHS Covid pass still not recognised in some EU countries theguardian.com
Brexit: UK in Brexit climbdown as safety rule deadline extended theguardian.com
Environment: Britain considers bringing back beavers after 400 years reuters.com
Lib Dem leader Ed Davey wants to target Tory heartlands bbc.com
Extinction Rebellion blocks junction in London’s West End in latest protest theguardian.com

⊂ POLITJOBS UNITED KINGDOM ⊃

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⊂ EUROPE ⊃

US troops will leave Afghanistan by deadline: US President Joe Biden told G7 leaders on Tuesday that the United States is on pace to finish its withdrawal from Afghanistan by his 31 August deadline, the White House said in a statement. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the president warned the other world leaders that every day that American forces stay in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, the risk escalates, especially from terrorist groups operating in the country in the aftermath of the militants’ takeover. The president also made clear that completion of the mission by 31 August depends on continued coordination with the Taliban, including continued access for evacuees to the airport. European Council President Charles Michel said that European leaders had implored the US to secure the airport as long as necessary to complete the operations. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on the Taliban to ensure free passage for those Afghans who sought to leave the country, even after Western troops had departed. The Taliban said Tuesday that the group will not allow Afghan nationals to leave the country. Putin Russian President Vladimir Putin has criticised the United States and its allies for leaving Afghanistan in chaos that raises potential security threats for Russia and its allies in Central Asia. The EU will increase its support for Afghans still in the country and those fleeing it to over 200 million euros.
npr.org, nytimes.com, dw.com, cnbc.com, abcnews.go.com, reuters.com

Germany warns of suicide bombers in Kabul: There is an increasing risk of suicide attacks by Islamic State (Isis) fighters entering Kabul, a German general said on Tuesday. „The security situation continues to deteriorate,“ Germany’s Chief of Defence Eberhard Zorn told reporters in Berlin. „We are getting signals from American sources as well as our own assessments that an increasing number of suicide attackers from the IS are seeping into Kabul,“ he said, referring to this as one of the greatest risks at the moment.
reuters.com

Austria and Lithuania call for sanctions on Belarus: Lithuania has proposed that the EU impose sanctions on Belarusian citizens and companies it says are helping migrants cross into the bloc. Austrian ministers have also said that those responsible for the migrant inflow must face strict sanctions. Lithuania has made changes to its asylum procedure to speed up final decisions on asylum applications. Poland has recorded more than four thousand illegal crossings this year and has become a new EU destination for asylum-seekers. In response, Poland has started to build a barbed-wire fence, deployed soldiers at the border, and has temporarily legalised pushbacks. The government is also planning on changing the legislation. Meanwhile, the United Nations Refugee Agency UNHCR urged Poland on Tuesday to offer medical and legal support and shelter to migrants camping on the border with Belarus.
rferl.org, euronews.com, euronews.com, reuters.com

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EU Parliament puts pressure on Commission in dispute over penalties against Poland and Hungary: In the dispute over possible proceedings to cut EU funding for countries such as Poland and Hungary, the European Commission has allowed a deadline set by the European Parliament to pass. The Commission confirmed that no proceedings have been initiated so far. However, it reiterated that preparations are underway. In June, the EU Parliament had called on the Commission, under threat of an action for failure to act, to finally use a new procedure to punish rule of law violations in the EU. The procedure adopted at the time set the deadline for Tuesday. Now, an action for failure to act can be filed with the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) within the next two months.
n-tv.de

Shadow banks need tighter regulation, ECB’s Schnabel says: Non-bank financial firms, more commonly known as shadow banks, need tighter regulation as their increasing risk profile could impair central bank policy during periods of stress, European Central Bank board member Isabel Schnabel told a conference on Tuesday. “Non-banks have taken on substantial duration, liquidity and credit risks on their balance sheets,” Schnabel said. “This also comes with new risks that may impair policy transmission in periods of financial stress.”
reuters.com

COVID-19: Pfizer, Moderna get EU nod for boosting mRNA vaccine output reuters.com
Coming up after summer: Climate action, public health, future of Europe europarl.europa.eu
Russia is pumping a lot less natural gas to Europe all of a sudden — and it is not clear why cnbc.com
Ethiopia: US and EU warn of influx of Eritrean troops in Tigray reuters.com
Dispute over Western Sahara: Algeria severs diplomatic ties with Morocco france24.com

⊂ QUOTE OF THE DAY ⊃

We will work every day to get a good election result and not look every day at the polls. Ultimately it is the ballots of voters in the ballot box that count.
Germany’s outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed Tuesday that her party will fight for a good result in the election next month and won’t be distracted by polls showing its support at worryingly low levels.
apnews.com

⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃

Possible poison attack at German university: Police in the central German state of Hesse launched an investigation into a possible case of attempted murder on Tuesday after seven people ingested poison at the Technical University Darmstadt. One 30-year-old student had been left in a critical condition while the other six required medical attention, a police statement said. Police said cartons of milk and water containers had been spiked with a harmful substance, which they described as having a pungent smell. Authorities have launched a 40-person murder commission to find the culprit. The police said the situation no longer posed an acute threat.
dw.com

Afghan refugee with suspected links to the Taliban in custody in France: An Afghan refugee who was recently flown out of Kabul and is suspected to have current or past ties with the Taliban has been placed in custody in Paris, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin confirmed on Tuesday to franceinfo. On Monday, Darmanin initially announced that the man, who was taken on a French flight after he helped the French Embassy evacuate, was placed under house arrest and surveillance because authorities suspected this person to have or to have had ties with the Afghan Taliban government. He was placed in custody after breaking the terms of his house arrest. He and his contacts are now monitored by the General Directorate for Internal Security and geolocated, Darmanin said.
politico.eu

Greece to end free Covid tests for unvaccinated: Greece said on Tuesday it would end free testing for unvaccinated people to encourage them to get inoculated and head off any renewed spike in Delta variant infections of the coronavirus. Switzerland is being hit by a fourth wave of the coronavirus with a worrying rise in infections, the head of the government’s crisis team at the Federal Office for Public Health said on Tuesday. France’s health watchdog on Tuesday recommended a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for people aged over 65 and those with existing medical conditions that could put them at serious harm from Covid.
reuters.com (Greece), reuters.com (Switzerland), france24.com (France)

Marseille murders spark political row over drug gang turf wars: A series of murders in Marseille has sparked a political row over the growing turf wars between drug gangs who are terrorising poor housing estates, where one recent shooting victim was only 14 years old. Three men were killed in the Mediterranean port city this weekend in score-settling linked to the local drug trade, which is believed to bring in profits of millions of euros per month to competing cartels.
theguardian.com

Austria: President Van der Bellen opposes Chancellor Kurz in debate over acceptance of Afghan refugees rnd.de
Spain plans government aid for regions affected by wildfires bloomberg.com
Germany: Social Democrats overtake Merkel’s bloc in poll bloomberg.com
Ukraine celebrates 30 years of independence amid tensions with Russia euronews.com

⊂ POLITJOBS ⊃

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⊂ LAST BUT NOT LEAST ⊃

German Green party’s campaign ad earns ridicule: The Green party is being ridiculed by Twitter users for a new election campaign video featuring a rewrite of the German folk song „Kein schöner Land“ („No country more beautiful“). In the video, various people are singing a rather off-key rendition of the song, much to the amusement of German users on Twitter. „Kein schöner Land“ is one of the best-known German folk songs and was published in 1840. Now the Greens have taken on the song and rewritten it as „Ein schöner Land“ („A more beautiful country“). In their video, the Greens address issues such as a sense of home, barbecue, farmers, crafts, the church and soccer.
tagesspiegel.de, stern.de, spiegel.de

 

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